HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.



Frog at Morris Arboretum

“American Bull” by Lorraine Vail at the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia PA

While I tend to find the fall colors of the native trees and shrubs here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region something I cannot live without and something that makes me endlessly happy and at peace, others see the changing colors as the sure sign that winter is coming. They can’t enjoy the autumn display because all of those falling leaves depressingly morph into falling snowflakes as they watch them twirl down from the canopy.

As fall proceeds into its second month some lament the end of the growing season, putting away gloves and cleaning tools. Seed catalogs and garden magazines are piled up next to the couch for winter reading. People start to prepare for winter hibernation.

When it is time to sculpt pumpkins, people tend to think less about gardens and gardening as the changing of seasons leads us to think less about watering and weeds and more about turkey stuffing and present wrapping.

Turkey at Gray Towers Milford, PA

Turkey at Grey Towers Milford, PA

But for those of us who enjoy the seasons, who want to explore wherever and whenever, I encourage fall and winter visits to gardens. Perhaps you have a friend or loved one who isn’t so much into gardening but likes to get outside. Drag them to a public garden or museum with outdoor sculptures. You as a gardener, or plant admirer, or nature admirer will find sculptures that will fill the gardening void in the fall and winter months. Some of my favorites from my horticulture travels are here.

Sculptures in Nature:

Sometimes on your adventures you stumble upon art. We came across this sculpture at Innwood Hill Park in New York City quite by accident.

Art Surprise

Sculptures of Plants

Sometimes you run across realistic representations of actual plants. At Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, OH you will find larger-than-life orchid plants. Equally large is the samara, or maple seed, twirling in the breeze just like the real ones do at Mt. Cuba Center. At the United States Botanic Garden you will find sculpture that compliments the exhibits. I captured these dancing roots when I visited to see Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots.

Sculptures Reminiscent of Plants

Some sculptures remind you of plants. Grounds for Sculpture is a garden and an outdoor art exhibit. There are many that could have been included here but the striking way the “Sagg Portal” piece mirrors the large weeping spruce behind captured my attention. Many public gardens feature works by Dale Chihuly. Chihuly’s lifelong fascination with glasshouses has resulted in many public conservatories  and gardens featuring his organic blown-glass sculptures. Both the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona and the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus Ohio have featured his work. Franklin Park Conservatory now has a permanent exhibition.

Sculptures Made of Plants

When artist Patrick Dougherty visits a garden, volunteers are put to work. Materials are gathered from around the grounds then twisted and turned into art.

Twig Houses at Morris Arboretum

“A Waltz in the Woods” by Patrick Dougherty at Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia PA

Sometimes the art is carved into the plant.

Carving in a stump at Trompenburg Botanic Garden, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Carving in a stump at Trompenburg Tuinen & Arboretum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

The sculptures below were all made as part of the project 1 Boom. Inspired by the project that started in England in 1998, an entire tree, leaves, twigs, trunk and all, was divvied up among 60 artists who then made art from the tree. 1 Boom, The Netherlands version appeared on display at the Trompenburg Tuinen & Arboretum in Rotterdam.

Though I have not viewed any of his sculptures in person, I have viewed his prints and worked with him and I feel I would have done a disservice if I didn’t mention the amazing work of Patterson Clark. Patterson takes invasive plants and turns them into art. He makes the ink, the paper, the frames and the blocks for printing entirely out of invasive plants. He also creates fantastic sculptures entirely from invasive plant materials. Similar to the idea of ONE TREE, he takes something that people would otherwise throw away seeing nothing of value and turns it into something of value.

Sculptures of Gardening

Sometimes sculptures replicate nearly exactly our gardening activities. 

Sometimes the sculpture reminds you of the gardening season to come.

Sometimes the sculpture reminds you of the gardening season to come. Grounds for Sculpture Hamilton, NJ “Down to Earth” Seward Johnson

Plants in Stone

In college I took a class on Historic Architecture. The most valuable lesson I learned in that class was to look up. No matter where you are, if you look up past the wear and tear found on the first floor of a building, you will find the story of the structure’s history. Old cities may look rundown from street level, but look up and see carved flowers and leaves and the style of the period. From a floral window at the Portland Japanese Garden to the floral details of historic Bartram’s Gardens, to the oak leaf shaped sink basin at Chanticleer once you start looking for them you will find horticultural sculptures everywhere.

Plants as Sculpture

Sometimes it is the plants themselves that appear sculptural. Whether you see them along the streets of Antwerp, Belgium, or in the Oregon Garden in Silverton Oregon or in your own backyard, plants can offer something artful to your explorations.

My Favorites

Here I sit among the Mushroom sculptures at Griffis Sculpture Park in NY

Here I sit among the Mushroom sculptures at Griffis Sculpture Park in NY

My favorite sculptures are those you can touch, play on, are familiar or make you think. What “hortisculpture” has inspired you? Where is your favorite place to see art?

6 thoughts on ““Hortisculpture”

  1. Pingback: The Tyler Formal Gardens | HORT travels

  2. Pingback: Road Trip: Johns Island, SC | HORT travels

  3. On my own and on bus trips with some of my horticulture groups, is where I have seen and enjoyed some of these amazing sculptures.

  4. How totally clever some of these were. Makes me want to take up wood carving or sculpting. Heck any kind of art in general

    • It is amazing isn’t it Diane! Glad you were inspired, I was too after I put these all together and have the same ambition as you. Good luck – and please share a pic of your creations!

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